Summary of the results
We found that a significant minority of people are living with cancer and dementia; of people aged 75+, 7.5% were living with both conditions. We also found that people living with cancer and dementia differ in important ways from people with cancer alone. For example, they are older, more likely to live in a care home, more likely to have additional comorbidities (alongside having cancer and dementia) and use more healthcare resources (e.g. GP appointments and prescriptions).
Having dementia adds a great deal of complexity to cancer treatment and care. For example, decision making around cancer treatment becomes more complex. There are challenges around capacity, understanding and retaining information, and balancing quality against quantity of life. Cancer clinicians did not always know if someone had dementia and most staff had little or no access to dementia training. However, we also found many examples of cancer services providing a range of approaches to support people with dementia and their families to navigate cancer care. These included consistent staffing across appointments, tailoring of information and appointments to suit the person’s needs and recognition of the need to support and include sometimes highly burdened family members as well as the person with dementia.